By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolitics

A “groundbreaking study” in 1978 found that obese people ate more food than non-obese people. For its “obvious conclusions,” Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) from Wisconsin, gave the National Institute of Mental Health a Golden Fleece award for wasteful and nonsensical spending in June 1978.

The study compared the amount of food obese and non-obese people ate in restaurants where they had a choice between ordering from a menu and going to a buffet.

Unsurprisingly, researchers found that far more food was eaten at the buffet than from the menu. “This was a pedestrian study with all the trappings of research, which reached amazingly obvious conclusions,” Proxmire said then.

About 1,718 patrons were observed in four restaurants of different ethnic origin — Italian, Irish, American, and Danish — where one could either order from a menu or visit a buffet. The customers were rated as obese or non-obese by two observers who had been trained on silhouettes and to recognize people who were about 30 percent or more over desirable weight.

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The researchers found that obese people made up a far higher percentage of the customers in restaurants when a buffet was offered than those with traditional menu service. While the exact cost couldn’t be calculated, the researcher estimated it at a few hundred dollars.

Proxmire noted that the researcher had a very good reputation in his field, collected no salary, and had generally worked for relatively modest amounts compared with the professional grant-getters.

But in the end, Proxmire’s staff estimated the study cost $2,500 to $3,000 — at most $12,621 in 2021 dollars. That may not sound like much relative to how much the government usually spends, but it is $12,000 more than was necessary arrive at the conclusions that the study did.

Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.

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